26th Nov 2022

Italy presses for Nato command of Libya war

  • Italy's southern island of Lampedusa is closer to Tripoli than Rome (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Wary of immigrants fleeing Libya and potential retaliation from Gaddafi, Italy is calling on its allies to bring the airstrikes under Nato command or else it will withdraw authorisation for the use of its military bases in the enforcement of the no-fly zone.

"We want Nato to take control over the operation ... We have given permission for our bases to be used and would not like to bear the political responsibility for things done by others, without our control," foreign minister Franco Frattini said during a press conference in Brussels on Monday (21 March), after a meeting with foreign ministers.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In Turin, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi also insisted it was "important that the command passes to Nato with a different coordination structure than what we have now."

Neither Germany nor Turkey are in favour of Nato's involvement in the mission. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been the first to call for strikes and who organised the "Paris summit" to lay out the operation among allies, is also unwilling to have the military alliance take over control.

A special cabinet meeting in Rome dedicated to Italy's involvement in Operation Odyssey Dawn underscored the fact that the country is not going to drop any bombs on its former colony, but only use jets for surveillance purposes.

Interior minister Roberto Maroni warned of influxes of "clandestine" migrants, stressing that a first boat had arrived to Sicily with around 200 on board. Authorities later said they were actually Egyptians, not Libyans as they claimed. Maroni's party, the anti-immigrant Lega del Nord, had already called for Italy's participation in the war to be linked to allies "blocking" any departures of migrants from Libya.

On the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, closer to Tripoli and Tunis than Rome, locals are wary about the country's participation in the military mission against Libya's dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

The prospect of refugees from Libya "is a definite risk", says the mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino de Rubeis, as Tunisian migrants arriving by boat outnumbered the regular inhabitants on the island.

"So far we haven't seen an awful lot of help from the EU, other than the intelligence from the Frontex mission which has only a few people and assets," he told this website.

"We want that Europe answers the call for help that Lampedusa and Italy are putting out."

The other risk, that Gaddafi strikes back at Italy for its involvement in the mission, would be a deja vu for some Lampedusans. In 1986, when a Nato base was on the island, Gaddafi shot two missiles towards Lampedusa, missing it only by a few miles.

De Rubeis played down the risk of this happening however. "We have men and means here in Italy who at least can guarantee us the security," he said.

But this was met with scepticism by locals. Lorenzo Costa, a music history teacher from Genoa who spends half the year on and around the island sailing said: "I am a little afraid. Gaddafi is a very strange fellow. Perhaps not necessarily Lampedusa, but there is a danger."

Meanwhile, Russia, India and China have urged the alliance to immediately stop military strikes. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the UN resolution endorsing a no-fly zone was a "medieval call to crusade."

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov also said his troops will not take part in the "adventure" against Libya because it is motivated by oil concerns. "Oil and the future exploitation of Libyan oil are the main motives driving this operation," he said in Sofia, according to AFP.


The EUobserver's Valentina Pop talks to the mayor of Lampedusa Bernardino de Rubeis about the impact of the Libyan war on his island.

Tunisian migrant: EU treatment is 'shameful'

Tunisian migrants stuck in harsh conditions in Lampedusa feel let down by the EU compared to the effort made by ordinary Tunisians to help refugees fleeing violence in Libya.

Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won't make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU plan because there is no legal basis, says Sweden's ambassador to the EU. But Sweden's new right-wing government is also tightening migration rules.


Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence

We're asking the EU to stop hiding behind pinkwashed slogans and finally walk the talk by providing all necessary legal tools to guarantee women their rights, say two Left MEPs, for International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  2. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  3. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  4. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence
  5. Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'
  6. EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo
  7. 'No substance' price ceiling for gas leaves everyone disgruntled
  8. Paying consumers who save most energy could tame gas prices

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us